Duke-Clemson Preview

Amile Jefferson's injury crippled Duke's depth and put the onus on Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee to hold serve in the frontcourt.

They've answered the call, and the ninth-ranked Blue Devils are rolling because of it.

Extending their winning streak to six Wednesday night could be a difficult task, though, as they visit a Clemson team looking to beat ranked opponents in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly 27 years.

A right foot fracture to the 6-foot-9 Jefferson not only depleted an already thin rotation, but also took away some on-court senior leadership coach Mike Krzyzewski said is invaluable. Jefferson started the first nine games, averaging 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds, and there's still no timetable for his return.

Duke (14-2, 3-0 ACC) has won six of seven without him, though, despite only six players playing at least 10 minutes in five of those games. Ingram is averaging 20.7 points and 36.1 minutes over the last nine games after averaging 10.9 points and 24.6 minutes in his first seven.

The 6-foot-9 freshman has helped make up for the loss of Jefferson in other ways, too, blocking four shots in last Wednesday's win at Wake Forest before swatting six in Saturday's 82-58 rout of Virginia Tech. Ingram and Plumlee have each averaged 8.3 rebounds with Jefferson sidelined.

Plumlee has had back-to-back career games, finishing with 18 points against Wake and 21 with 10 boards Saturday. The senior 7-footer had two double-digit scoring performances in his first 14. He's played more than 30 minutes in four straight games after doing so once through the first 12.

Guards Grayson Allen (16 points), Matt Jones (13) and Luke Kennard (11) also had solid games against the Hokies and have contributed to Duke winning by an average of 23.6 points during its streak.

"Losing (Jefferson) cost us to do more different things than probably any other guy we would've lost," Krzyzewski said. "On the perimeter we have a little bit of depth, but Amile is a very unique player."

Duke beat the Tigers 78-56 in last season's only meeting, but the Blue Devils lost their last trip to Clemson 72-59 on Jan. 11, 2014, when Jaron Blossomgame finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Blossomgame again helped the Tigers (10-6, 3-1) pull off an upset Sunday, scoring a game-high 17 points in a 66-62 win over then-No. 16 Louisville. Avry Holmes added 16 for Clemson, which hasn't beaten ranked foes in consecutive games since March 1 and 4, 1989.

The Tigers have won three straight following a three-game skid and were able to beat the Cardinals despite shooting 32.6 percent from the field.

"They're playing very well and they've played in four very difficult (ACC) games," Krzyzewski said. "They were good and now they're better, and you get better through accomplishment. They can put four guys on the court at any one time that can really spread you."

This will be the second of five consecutive games against ranked opponents for Clemson, with No. 8 Miami on Saturday, No. 13 Virginia on Jan. 19 and No. 20 Pittsburgh on Jan. 27 also looming.

The good news? Only the Virginia game is on the road.

"When you play in a league like this, you're going to have some tough stretches," coach Brad Brownell said. "What's tough about it is you can play well and lose, and that's tough on the guys. Hopefully the wins come, but you just focus on what you can control."

These teams are Nos. 1 and 2 in the ACC in blocks per game, with Duke averaging 5.88 and Clemson 5.75.

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